By Meredith McCulloch
The Bedford Center for the Arts appeared at the Selectmen’s Meeting April 28 to request relief on four months rent for their space in Old Town Hall. The group rents space on the ground floor. It was refurbished in 2005 by BCA volunteers to form three studios, an office and a program room.
BCA President Elizabeth Hacala outlined the organization’s dilemma. Renting the artists’ studios is the major source of income to the group. Unfortunately, they learned recently, with only two days notice, that a studio renter would be vacating her studio and was withdrawing from a verbal agreement to rent a second unit. This resulted in an immediate shortfall in revenue that could result in the financial collapse of the organization. Compounding the problem is the added difficulty in attracting renters when future availability of the studios is in doubt.
Hacala pointed out the intrinsic value of having a thriving arts organization in the center of town, adding that the group’s programming brings not only opportunities for artists, but also new people, and therefore customers, to local businesses.
The current programing includes a Friday craft program for young children, support of S.N.A.P., a special-needs art program, an active twice-monthly photo group, a play-reading group, and a recent copyright law workshop for artists. Planned for the near future are several photography workshops and a teen improv workshop.
The request was to waive the remaining four months rent (May – August) and to reduce the next year’s charge to BCA by one-half. This would give BCA an opportunity to continue expansion of their programs, a major source of income, and to recover financially.
During the discussion several Selectmen confirmed the value of arts to the Town, while Chair Mark Siegenthaler also underscored the fiduciary responsibility of the board. In the end the board approved by a vote of 5-0 a motion to waive rent for the remainder of the current lease totaling $3,639 for the months from May to August. Terms of a new lease for the next year will be reviewed.
Also attending were BCA board members Bob Bass, Susan Grieb, Ellen Ryan, and Joanna Nickerson and former president Sing Hanson.